Social issues, soy and deforestation

Poor family, Procosara / San Rafael, Paraguay
© WWF / Fernando Allen

Despair in the soy plantations

Forests are not the only victims of expanding soy plantations in Brazil. Poor people, lured from villages and deprived neighbourhoods, are brought to remote soy estates where they are put to work in barbaric conditions – often at gunpoint and with no chance of escaping.

Where and how abuses occur

Worker abuse is especially prevalent where there is strong agricultural expansion, such as in the Amazon states of Pará and Mato Grosso. Trapped in remote farms with no pay and few amenities, workers – including children – are forced to work inhuman shifts, sometimes even at gunpoint. Those who fall sick are abandoned and replaced by others.

Who is responsible?

Although abuses happen in remote farms, the landowners who are responsible are closely connected with the rest of the world through their soy trading activities. While authorities do try to intervene, their limited capacity and the clout of big traders means that their impact is limited.

The problem is that fines are too small to intimidate landowners, whose profits are large enough to cover them. In any case, no one has been jailed so far for forcefully keeping workers on soy farms.

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